After being delayed for nearly three months due to COVID-19, Georgia’s June 9 primary and special election has turned into chaos at many precincts in metro Atlanta.
There were reports all day of long lines, malfunctioning voting machines, confused poll workers, not enough absentee ballots, and passing the buck on whose fault it was between state and local officials. Gov. Brian Kemp was trending on Twitter for a time in the afternoon as users accused him of suppressing the vote.
Due to the meltdown, Fulton County announced polls would remain open until 9 p.m. instead of the previously scheduled 7 p.m. DeKalb County announced court-ordered extended hours at certain polling sites, including Kittredge Magnet School in Brookhaven, where voting was to continue until 9:26 p.m.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office would investigate voting issues in both Fulton and DeKalb Counties to root out problems before the November general election. In a statement, Raffensperger called the voting situation in both counties “unacceptable.”
“Obviously, the first time a new voting system is used, there is going to be a learning curve, and voting in a pandemic only increased these difficulties. But every other county faced these same issues and were significantly better prepared to respond so that voters had every opportunity to vote,” Raffensperger said in reference to Fulton and DeKalb.
Local leaders pushed back on the secretary of state’s comments, including DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond. “The Election Day issues relating to the use of state-purchased voting machines represent an attack on the democratic process. The Secretary of State’s Office has alleged these issues resulted from a failure of county leadership. If there was a failure of leadership, it starts where the buck should stop, at the top. The eradication of any ‘learning curve’ rests squarely at the feet of the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his office,” Thurmond said in a statement.
The Georgia Democratic Party also had words for Raffensperger: “The secretary of state’s job is to provide adequate support and training for counties as he implemented Georgia’s new voting system, and he has failed. Across the state, Georgia voters are waiting for hours to cast their ballots because Georgia’s system is failing them. We demand statewide action by the secretary of state — the chief elections official in Georgia— to fix this problem immediately before we see these issues for every election this cycle.”
The city of Atlanta and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms both used social media to encourage frustrated voters to stick out the long lines and confusion.
The city of Atlanta tweeted: “If you encounter long lines or delays because of voting machine malfunctions, please report the delay to poll officials and request an emergency paper provisional ballot. Call the Election Protection Hotline at (866) 687-8683.”
Bottoms tweeted: “If you are in line, PLEASE do not allow your vote to be suppressed. PLEASE stay in line. They should offer you a provisional ballot if the machines are not working.”
–John Ruch contributed
Update: This story has been updated with information about extended voting hours in DeKalb County.